Preparing for Alzheimer’s with Estate Planning
An estimated 6.2 million Americans age 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s dementia in 2021. It’s projected that Massachusetts will have a 15.4% increase in the number of residents 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease from 2020 to 2025, growing from 130,000 people to 150,000.
Being diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s means that at some point a person will be unable to make critical financial and healthcare decisions on their own. Therefore it’s vital to prepare for Alzheimer’s with estate planning.
In order to create or change legal documents, a person must have the required capacity to execute them. “Testamentary capacity” is the legal term used to describe a person’s legal and mental ability to create or alter a valid will. Testamentary capacity requires that the person making the will understands:
- The nature of making a will
- What they are doing by signing the will
- Who may inherit the property whether there’s a will or not
- Completely the type of property and assets they own
When prepare for Alzheimer’s or dementia with estate planning, it’s important to work with a knowledgeable Massachusetts estate planning attorney to create an estate plan as soon as possible. By doing this, they’ll be able to make their own decisions and provide guidance to their loved ones to make sure their wishes are followed in regard to:
- Who their beneficiaries are and what assets they’ll receive
- How the person with Alzheimer’s will be treated medically if they become incapacitated
- How that person’s legal and financial aspects of their lives will be handled
- What type of end-of-life care they will receive
Doing this planning makes it easier on loved ones when it’s their time to step in and help. If you or someone you love is facing Alzheimer’s or dementia, there are the documents you should put in place:
Estate Planning Documents to Create
Will or revocable trust: A will outlines who will receive the deceased’s property after they pass way and who will manage their estate (“the executor”). Instead of a will, a trust could be created since it avoids probate and would name someone to manage the trust’s assets if the person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s becomes incapacitated.
Durable Power of Attorney: The person who creates the power of attorney is the grantor. The grantor chooses a trusted person to manage their finances, business, and legal matters in the event they become unable to do so. That means the designated person can take money out of the grantor’s bank account, pay the grantor’s bills, and even make court appearances for the grantor until they recover and are able to handle their own affairs.
Health Care Proxy: In this case, the person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is choosing someone (a health care agent) they trust to make medical decisions for them in case they become incapacitated. This includes documenting how the person wants to be treated by a health care team and communicating any wishes to the health care agent.
Living Will: A living will works in conjunction with a health care proxy by expressing the person’s wishes as to how their designated agent should proceed in specific circumstances. Do they want life-prolonging treatment if they have a terminal illness? Do they want a respirator to breathe?
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) Power: The person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s can give people access to their health information.
Review the Planning for these Assets as Well
These are assets for which the title is set to automatically pass upon a person’s death, or assets in which the transfer of title is controlled by some sort of survivorship mechanism.
- Property held in joint tenancy with rights of survivorship. Upon the death of one owner, their interest in the property automatically transfers to the other owner(s).
- Bank and brokerage accounts held in joint name or with transfer on death or payable on death beneficiaries. When the account owner / joint owner passes away, the accounts automatically transfer to the other joint owner or the designated beneficiaries.
- Life insurance, brokerage accounts, retirement accounts, and bonds that list a beneficiary other than the deceased’s estate
How We Can Help
Taking action and preparing for Alzheimer’s with estate planning is a crucial step toward avoiding problems in the future. As a skilled Massachusetts estate planning lawyer, I can work with you and your family to ensure that your estate planning documents will carry out your wishes. Call us today at 617.299.6976 or contact us using this online form to schedule a confidential, no-cost consultation with us.